The 1950s featured controversy among wilderness advocates, conservationists, and supporters of hydropower regarding the Colorado River Storage Project. The project was a source of concern for conservation organizations such as the outspoken Sierra Club under the leadership of David Brower. Initially, Echo Park was chosen as the location for another CRSP dam, but Brower and others strongly opposed this as it was part of a national monument. Historians claim conservation organizations prioritized saving Echo Park at the expense of Glen Canyon, which was lesser known and which lacked the protection of monument or park status. In effect, the Sierra Club and other opponents believed they had won in Echo Park, but didn't realize what they were putting at risk in Glen Canyon. Upon visiting Glen Canyon after the CRSP had become law, Brower realized that the place was also worthy of protection for its immense biodiversity and exquisite rock formations. For opponents, the 710 foot tall concrete construction symbolized the dangers of water development. The lessons learned and techniques developed during the fight over Glen Canyon fueled the modern environmental movement.
Gregory Crampton, a history professor at the University of Utah, guided a series of trips through Glen Canyon from 1957 to 1963 to document the area before submersion. Alongside graduate students and other prominent academics, he published six books and several articles containing the rich histories of the region. The photo captured by Bureau of Reclamation photographer A. E. Turner shows a rare moment of Crampton contemplating the cultural and historical importance of the canyon.